5 Challenges When Recruiting Top Performers in 2021


Finding the right talent is harder than ever for HR professionals. As recently as 2018, a survey by Recruiter Nation revealed that 67% of recruiters said that their most significant challenge was identifying highly skilled and competent candidates.

As can be expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified these concerns. Sweeping changes in interviewing procedures, workplace best practices, and employee values have made it more difficult to hire the right candidates in 2021. 

In order to most effectively navigate these concerns, the following breakdown analyzes how to plan for and approach five common challenges when recruiting top performers in 2021. 

1. Adjusting to Remote Recruiting 

Just like many other industries, recruiters and HR professionals have made an increased shift to assessing candidates from home during the pandemic. This has required recruiters to update their skillset to remain relevant in the competitive sphere of hiring.

While networking is at the heart of all successful recruiting efforts, professionals can no longer rely on career fairs, company barbecues, or professional sporting events as means of interacting with and wooing top candidates. Contemporary recruiters must be able to adroitly navigate social media, applicant tracking software, and video conference tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack in order to build the type of talent pool needed for open positions. 

It is also important to note that although the pandemic has hastened the shift to remote recruiting, practices are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic form when restrictions ease up. Research suggests that the effective use of technology can reduce hiring times by up to 50%, so modern recruiters must be skilled in building their networks using a combination of in-person and remote tools moving forward.

2. Ensuring a Top-Notch Candidate Experience

The recruitment and interview process is just as much an opportunity for the company to impress the candidate as it is for the candidate to impress the company. Without the opportunity to impress recruits with a state-of-the-art company headquarters, innovative office layout, and meet-and-greet with their would-be colleagues, HR professionals are facing increased challenges in creating a “wow” factor in the current climate. 

While Linkedin reports that 46% of hiring professionals believe that the pandemic has negatively impacted the candidate experience, there are still ways to convey an atmosphere that professionals look forward to joining. Some best practices to keep in mind include:

  • Clear and consistent communication is the key. Relying on in-person interviews to say what needs to be said is not sufficient. Convey your interest to the candidate frequently, using multiple means of communication.
  • Leverage technology. Recruitment videos and high-quality digital renderings of building and office spaces can be used to create virtual tours that make candidates feel right at home.
  • Follow up, even if you decide to go with someone else. The “ghosting” culture applies not only to online dating. Candidates report feeling hurt by companies who simply stop talking to them when they hire a different candidate. The thought of being “ghosted” by a potential employer can make quality candidates hesitant to apply, so be respectful of applicants’ best interests throughout all stages of recruitment. 

3. Evolving Company Identity

From challenges arising due to the pandemic to social justice issues, the standards for how to value a business have changed significantly over the past year. Whether it is through the products and services offered, the diversity of the workforce employed, or the types of issues it supports and stands behind, contemporary candidates want to be assured that they are joining a company culture consistent with their values. As a result, it is incumbent upon HR professionals to help tailor the company brand and identity to appeal to the modern talent pool. 

4. Hiring Freezes/Limited Compensation

The pandemic has created an interesting catch-22: people need money more than ever, but due to lower-than-normal revenue, companies are limited in what they can offer, with some businesses implementing hiring freezes, eliminating bonuses, or skipping their annual cost-of-living adjustment.

For those companies that are struggling financially, HR departments can get creative in putting together attractive compensation plans. If hefty salaries are out of the question, innovative employee fringe benefits can be a great way to appeal to candidates. Some ideas include:

  • Even after pandemic restrictions subside, offer candidates one or two flex days a week, where they can choose whether to work remotely or in-person
  • Offer lifestyle benefits, such as memberships to fitness clubs or online streaming services
  • Have a modern dress and personal appearance code that will not alienate candidates from diverse backgrounds

5. Equivocal Talent Pool

The pandemic changed the concept of work for employers and employees, alike. After getting laid off from previous positions, many professionals have “figured out” how to make a living over the past year, from trading cryptocurrencies to using digital advertising to monetize their blogs/podcasts to using their personal vehicles to deliver for Amazon.

Although these may have seemed like a temporary means to an end for unemployed professionals, the reality is that some people have gotten quite adept at finding alternative ways to make money and may not be eager to jump back into a traditional job. Therefore, recruiters must be more proactive than ever in 2021, reaching out and cultivating prospective candidates as opposed to waiting for applications to roll in.

Go Through the Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for employers to identify top talent, a concern that had been intensifying, even before the pandemic restrictions. By considering the five challenges and potential solutions listed above, companies can be in a strong position to land top performers in 2021.

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